A lingering respiratory problem has forced the former Czech president Vaclav Havel to cancel a planned visit to Canada and postpone a planned trip to the United States. Mr. Havel was scheduled to attend a panel discussion in Vancouver on April 20th that will include Nobel Peace Prize winners South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Iranian human rights activist Shirin Ebadi and the Dalai Lama. After that he planned to spend several months in the United States. Mr. Havel's spokesperson said it was not clear when the president would be fit to travel. He is now said to be working at home in the care of physicians.
Czech hockey star Jaromir Jagr has returned to the Czech Republic to prepare for the World Ice Hockey Championships. Jagr arrived at Prague's Ruzyne Airport in an upbeat mood on Sunday telling reporters he was ready to fight for a title. The ice hockey mega star began the season with the Washington Capitals but was transferred to the New York Rangers at the end of January. Czech sports commentators say that Jagr desperately wants to win a title at the Ice Hockey Championships which would help remove the bitter aftertaste of a poor season in the NHL.
Czech film director Jiri Weiss has died in the United States at the ago of 91. In the course of his career he directed 22 films and countless documentaries for which he received a number of international awards. His best known works are The Wolves' Den and Romeo, Juliette and Darkness. In 1968 Weiss emigrated to the United States where he lectured at various film academies. In 1995 he published an autobiography which came out in Czech under the name The White Mercedes.
A Czech ski alpinist who was seriously injured in an avalanche in the Slovak High Tatras on Friday has died. He and a friend were climbing the Rysy peak when the avalanche hit and both were swept down to the bottom of a valley where the local helicopter rescue service found them. Despite the fact that the helicopter was close by and provided immediate assistance one of the alpinists was dead on the spot, the other was rushed to a hospital with serious head injuries. He lived for only a few more hours. The High Tatras, Slovakia's highest mountains, have proved a treacherous challenge for many - six Czech mountaineers lost their lives there since the beginning of this year.
The police have arrested two drug peddlers operating at a Czech mountain resort. The men, aged 23 and 25, had three kilograms of hashish in their possession and supplied primarily foreign tourists. Both were employees of a mountain chalet and have admitted to the crime. They allegedly intended to use the money for a luxury holiday in Spain. They both face a sentence of up to ten years in prison.
There is controversy within the Czech police force over a plan to establish an official list of police informers. Police officers argue that establishing a network of trusty informers takes a long time and the existence of an official list would scare many of them away. They claim that establishing such a list would take the Czech Republic back to the communist years when the police had lists of informers as well as lists of agents. However the police presidium is insistent, saying that although it understands officers' concerns the present practice of each officer guarding his contacts is proving costly and inefficient. Whenever an officer leaves, we loose all his informers and different police units often look for informers in the same circles although there are already available contacts, the police president argued.
Two young people were killed and another seriously injured when their car collided with an oncoming train in the early hours of Saturday. The accident occurred around 2.30 am when five young people returning from a disco in their old Skoda car either failed to see or disregarded the warning lights at a rail crossing. Two young women died on the spot and another passenger suffered serious injuries. Police are investigating the incident. The number of Czechs killed in rail crossing-collisions annually has evoked much concern and the police have repeatedly appealed to drivers not to ignore the warning lights.
Several human rights groups have asked President Vaclav Klaus to bring up the issue of human rights violations during his official visit to China next week. Olympic Watch, Amnesty International, Lungta and People in Need have written a joint letter to the Czech President asking him to speak up on behalf of five concrete political prisoners in China and to urge the Chinese leadership to ratify an international agreement on civic rights and political freedoms which it signed some time ago. President Klaus and his wife Livia are due to begin their official visit to China on April 15th.
President Klaus has vetoed a bill on value added tax and a bill on real estate tax, which are a crucial part of the government's fiscal reforms. The country needs the bills to be approved and come into force before its accession to the EU in May. The president's spokesman said Mr. Klaus considered both bills to be a bad mixture of measures that would have serious consequences for Czech citizens and businesses. The finance ministry has refused to comment on the President's decision, saying that it counted on Parliament to overturn the Presidential veto in time for the laws to take effect on May 1st.
The Senate has approved a draft amendment to the nature and landscape protection bill which provides for the creation of some 40 European Natura-type protected areas. The amendment, which the Czech Republic has been asked to pass by the European Union before its accession on May 1, provides mainly for the declaration of "bird reserves" where the protection of endangered bird species would be ensured. The opposition Civic Democrats are opposed to the amendment saying that it restricts the rights of land owners. The Natura 2000 project aims to create a continuous European environmental system of specially protected areas with endangered species of birds and protected animals, plants and habitats.